The Volusia School Board narrowed the pool of applicants for the interim superintendent job down to three candidates. By Tuesday night, it will have interviewed all three, and selected an interim leader to succeed Superintendent Tom Russell.
Still in the running: former Florida Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart, retired Volusia deputy superintendent Timothy Huth and retired curriculum director for St. Johns County Schools Tim Egnor, a former principal at Spruce Creek High. Each brings more than 30 years of experience in education.
Board members spent just a few minutes discussing who they want to interview at a workshop Monday afternoon. Interviews for the job, which is expected to last until January while the board searches for a permanent replacement for Russell, are scheduled to start for 8:30 a.m. Tuesday and will last an hour each.
[READ MORE: Now what? Volusia County School Board looks at how to replace Tom Russell]
Stewart resigned from Florida’s top education position in December shortly after Ron DeSantis was elected. At the time, she told the Tampa Bay Times that she planned to go back home to St. Augustine to spend time with family, but she wasn’t done working in education.
“My main focus would be to ensure that everything necessary is in place to begin the 2019-2020 school year on a positive trajectory for success in moving the district to an A grade,” she wrote in her cover letter to the board. “Particularly in the last five years of my career, as Florida’s Commissioner of Education, I’ve grown to believe in the potential of all students and our role as educators to ensure they reach that potential.”
Stewart helped stabilize the Florida Department of Education under former Gov. Rick Scott, and before going to the state department was a deputy superintendent for St. Johns County Schools.
Huth is a longtime Volusia County Schools employee who retired in 2010 after more than a decade as the district’s deputy superintendent, as well as stints as an area superintendent, principal, assistant principal and teacher.
“The resume indicates my 36 years of experience for Volusia County Schools,” he wrote in his cover letter. “It would be an honor and privilege to serve Volusia County Schools as interim superintendent.”
Huth ran for a seat in the Florida House of Representatives in 2010, but lost to Fred Costello. According to his resume, the Ormond resident is currently working as a substitute teacher in Volusia and education consultant.
Egnor is a 29-year veteran of Volusia County Schools. After serving 12 years as principal at Spruce Creek and more time as a district administrator and teacher, he left Volusia to spend nine more years in the A-rated St. Johns County school district in the curriculum department.
His cover letter cites strong ties to the district, including a granddaughter who attends school here and a daughter who teaches middle school.
“I understand and appreciate the Volusia system, and I also have had immeasurably valuable leadership and learning experiences in a different, and very highly rated Florida district,” he wrote to the School Board. “I do not take this challenge lightly.”
During its hour-long interviews with each candidate, the board will ask questions in four categories: instructional leadership; business and finance; board, staff and community relations; and performance accountability.
At 2 p.m., board members will convene for a meeting to discuss and vote on which candidate they want to take over for Russell.
Other applicants for the interim position included DeBary City Councilman Stephen Bacon, Port Orange Elementary Principal Tennille Wallace, former area superintendent and current member of the Ivy Hawn Charter School of the Arts Annette Martinson, career interim superintendent from Georgia Lee Bush, and retired superintendent from California Kenneth Jacopetti.
“I think we had a very rich pool of applicants for this interim position,” board Chair Carl Persis said. “We’re looking forward to moving forward with the process.”
At an earlier workshop, board members said they’re looking for an interim candidate who can make tough decisions and communicate well. Board members have said they want someone who knows the district, but also that they want someone with a fresh perspective.
[READ MORE: It’s official: Volusia Superintendent Tom Russell is out in 1 month]
Although not completely closed off to the idea, board members have said they do not want to hire the interim superintendent permanently.
The interim will come in at a tumultuous time. Outside of the leadership turnover, the district is in the midst of transitioning to new school schedules for next year, new computer systems for student information and human resources, and new math and language arts textbooks for elementary teachers. The district is also facing a preliminary $10 million budget deficit.
The School Board narrowly voted in May to fire Russell after holding the district’s top spot since January 2015. His last day will be June 27, and the interim superintendent will be in charge starting July 1. The plan is for the selected interim to begin work a few days early in order to work with Russell and get up to speed.